Kolkata’s best-kept secret places to explore
A rich history of culture, literature, and art makes Kolkata one of the most captivating cities in India, with a wealth of intriguing experiences for visitors. Here are some of the most compelling sites to pencil in to your itinerary.
Mother Teresa’s Motherhouse
Though she was born in Albania, Mother Teresa’s heart belonged to India, where she did most of her humanitarian work. You can pay your respects to the inspiring saint at the Missionaries of Charity’s Motherhouse, which contains her tomb and the room where she worked and slept. There is also a small museum featuring some of her personal items—including her sandals—and in the charitable spirit of Mother Teresa, admission to the museum is free.
Five Nobel laureates hailed from Kolkata, among them physicist C.V. Raman, who was instrumental in growing a culture of science in India. Science City is one of the largest science centers in the country and is a great destination for curious minds both young and old. It hosts a variety of interactive exhibits, as well as a 3D theatre, butterfly garden, musical fountain, mirror maze, and a high-tech motion simulator.
South Park Street Cemetery
Wander amongst the moss-covered vaults and Gothic tombs at South Park Street Cemetery, which was first built in 1767 as the final resting place for the early pioneers of the British East India Company. The thick foliage and cool, damp air evoke a slightly eerie ambience, making the experience all the more exciting (and providing a welcome respite from the stifling humidity in summer).
For a fascinating glimpse into the art of handcrafting clay, head to the historic Kumartuli district where you can watch local sculptors and potters craft beautiful idols and effigies of deities for India’s religious festivals. The labrynthine streets of the neighbourhood are home to more than 400 artisans who specialize in the art and dedicate all their time to creating the intricate works of clay.
College Street Book Market
Kolkata also happens to be home to a bookworm’s dream: one of the largest secondhand book markets in the world. If you’re especially fond of finding rare tomes and first editions, College Street—known locally as Boi Para—is your place. Take a few hours to forage through the bamboo and canvas book stalls lining the street, as well as the many established book stores. When your feet are weary, stop for a drink at the renowned Coffee House on the street, which has long been a meeting place for many of Kolkata’s literary luminaries.
Sundarbans National Park
A trip to Kolkata doesn’t just have to be about exploring the city. The UNESCO World Heritage–listed Sundarbans National Park is located just to the southeast and offers plenty of opportunity for wildlife spotting. Keep your eyes peeled for white Bengal tigers, olive ridley turtles, saltwater crocodiles, and a wide variety of birds—as well as a rainbow of local flora and the world’s largest mangrove belt.
Nicknamed “the cloud-kissing monument” by Mark Twain, this 48-metre-high structure — which combines Syrian, Egyptian and Turkish architectural styles—was built in 1828. Though it was originally a tribute to Major General Sir David Ochterlony, commander of the British East India Company, Shaheed Minar was later rededicated in memory of the martyrs of the Indian freedom movement. Time your visit for the evening to witness the monument light up in a colourful display.